MORNING PIRATES BUZZ
In the first game of a critical series for the Pirates, Reds starter Mat Latos (10-3) powered the Reds to a 3-0 shutout win over the Pirates on Friday night.
Latos was dominant on the mound, pitching a shutout into the eighth inning, allowing 4 hits and no runs in 7 1/3 innings, while striking out 5 and walking 3.
Latos also made a big impact offensively hitting a two-run homer to left, 379 feet, in the bottom of the 5th inning to give the Reds a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Pirates were unable to mount anything offensively, producing no extra base hits and walking just three times. The Pirates opportunity to get to Latos looked like it might have been in the first inning when he struggled with his control but still managed to get three outs in facing just four batters.
Meanwhile, Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez (7-10, 3.82 ERA) pitched well, allowing 7 hits and 3 earned runs in seven innings of work. He struck out 4 and walked none in the loss. Rodriguez only mistake of the night was giving up the homer to Latos in the 5th.
The Reds came up with clutch hits with two outs as Chris Heisey hit an inside the park homer in the bottom of the 2nd with two outs and Lato's two-run blast was also with two outs.
On Heisey's inside the park homer, Starling Marte looked to make a leaping grab at the wall instead of backing off and playing the ball off the wall and giving Heisey the double.
The Reds have now won 21 of 24 games, including 14 of their last 15, moving 24 games over .500 for the first time since 1999. The Reds continue to get it done without their best players as they're 15-3 without star first baseman Joey Votto and 3-0 without second baseman Brandon Phillips who should play on Saturday.
Cincinnati (65-41)¬†now leads Pittsburgh (60-45)¬†by 4.5 games in the NL Central
-- Three days since the trade deadline has passed and two viewpoints among the fan base and local media emerged immediately following the Pirates moves. The one point of view is that the Pirates were leading the wild card race and within striking distance¬†of the¬†Cincinnati Reds for the division and you never know when you'll be in this position again and that they should've gone out and made an impact move for a bat who could help alter the race, even if it meant mortgaging the future.
The other point of view is the route that the Pirates went, in acquiring players under team control for next several years with upside who might not provide much of an impact right now but are viewed by management as upgrades over what they have. People who back the Pirates moves seem to be of the mindset that they are built to be in the position to¬†be competitive¬†for the next several seasons with the likes of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon coming up. The addition of Wandy Rodriguez alone made the Pirates a better team now and into next season.
The Pirates went after five impact hitters in particular. Justin Upton, Hunter Pence, Chase Headley, Shane Victorino, and Shin-Soo Choo. Of those five, they never got close on Upton, and were right in not willing to give up a big return for Victorino a two-month rental, but went hard after Headley and Pence. Excluding Upton as the Pirates never got close on him, the player who would have provided the best fit for right now is Shin-Soo Choo....... even over Hunter Pence.
What the Pirates desperately lack right now is an actual Major League leadoff hitter and Choo is one of the most under-rated players in baseball. He's hitting .310 in 284 at-bats in the leadoff spot, with 11 home runs, 27 RBIs, .382 OBP and .910 OPS. While Hunter Pence would have been¬†a nice piece to¬†put behind Andrew McCutchen in the lineup, Choo would have provided a big need in the leadoff spot, an upgrade defensively and much cheaper than Pence who isn't worth the $14 million he's probably going to get in arbitration.
-- Starling Marte (.222 - 2 HR - 4 RBI) was 0-4 in last night's loss and what's been concerning with him is his struggles to get into hitters count. He continues to fall into 0-2 counts way too often. Marte's first¬†three at-bats yesterday had him seeing just nine pitches.
-- Catcher Michael McKenry (.278 - 10 HR - 27 RBI) continues to outperform Rod Barajas at the plate, hitting .316 with 9 home runs and 26 RBIs in 95 at-bats since May 15. However, there continues to whispers that the Pirates still believe McKenry could get exposed with regular playing time. A 50/50 split with Barajas remains likely moving forward.
-- Ryan Ludwick's (.260 - 19 HR - 56 RBI) has been one of the best bargains in baseball this season, making just $2 million with the Reds. At how bad things went in Pittsburgh last season, I guess it's hard to fault the Pirates not making an attempt to sign him but this is a management team that threw $1.75 million at Nate McLouth and $4.5 million at Rod Barajas.